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The path to a safer site

19 November 2019

With the number of forklift accidents still alarmingly high, Tim Waples, Chief Executive of the Fork Lift Truck Association explains the dangers of lift trucks and offers advice on what you can do to ensure a safe site.

Many people aren’t aware that the humble forklift is the most dangerous piece of workplace transport equipment in the UK.

Every day in the UK we average five forklift accidents. These aren’t just knocks, scrapes and scratches. Due to the weight and momentum of a forklift truck, these accidents are often serious and life-changing events involving bones being crushed, fractured and shattered, amputation of limbs, and even death.

The majority of forklift injuries involve someone on foot in the vicinity of the truck, so it’s a problem that needs to be addressed across your entire workforce. Even if there is only a slight likelihood that they will be around forklifts during their job, they need to be informed of the dangers.

Because when there’s a serious accident it’s not just the victim that can be affected: it’s also the driver, the families of those involved, the co-workers — it all has a lasting effect on a large number of people.

And as well as the human element, as a company you may be liable for huge fines, repair bills and countless other expenses.

That’s why safety is such a key concern in the materials handling industry. Accidents come at a great cost.

So what can you do?

Step 1: Get Informed

The Fork Lift Safety section of the FLTA website contains all you need to get started with this first and most important step. But before you do, it’s worth recognising why it is so important.

It requires someone who is prepared to take the lead and, in this case, guide the way to a safer future on site.  

This may be you, or it may be a colleague. But regardless, it should be someone who is committed to positively changing forklift operations at your site.

And this is perhaps the most important part of the process. Identifying this individual who will unswervingly lead the way — communicating their message far and wide and motivating people out of their comfort zones and bad habits.

The importance of good supervision in this context — both morally and legally — is paramount, and it is vital that this safety champion is equipped with the training and background to ably identify and assess hazards as well as act when bad practice occurs.

The key to doing this is getting familiar with the important issues affecting forklift truck safety.

For managers and supervisors looking for in-depth knowledge, companies such as Mentor FLT Training offer specialist courses aimed at developing competence and confidence in those overseeing forklift truck operations.

In addition, there’s L117 from the HSE. This outlines the main legal requirements regulating the use of industrial trucks and contains the Approved Code of Practice (ACOP).

By following the ACOP, you can be assured that you are in line with the 10 pieces of legislation it embodies.

L117 goes far beyond simple risk assessments and basic training, stating the regulations and what they mean in practice on all manner of issues.

For example:

  • Legal responsibilities of companies, managers and employees
  • Choosing and maintaining equipment
  • Thorough examination
  • Workplace layout
  • Fumes, fuels and battery acid
  • Dealing with agency workers

Step 2: Pull no punches

Making all staff working with and alongside forklifts aware of the real dangers associated with operations is key to reducing the risk of injury.

Recognising a lack of awareness among workers on foot, The Bury Black Pudding Company developed an in-house training programme for its employees who work near forklifts. 

It raised understanding of the main risks for pedestrians working in close proximity to forklifts, highlighting the things you should never do near lift trucks, such as distracting drivers. In addition, it made clear the responsibilities for employer, employees, drivers and pedestrians. 

This bespoke training programme featured photos of real-life accidents and injuries: leaving staff in no doubt of how important it is to stay aware and follow safe protocols.

Whether you’re planning an induction, training or a toolbox talk, the FLTA website is packed with resources, including fact sheets and posters.

Step 3: Stay in check

There should be a formal regime for checks, maintenance and inspections in place which is enforced by supervisors. All checks — whether daily, pre-shift or weekly, should be scheduled, carried out properly and recorded.

L117 guidelines state that at the beginning of each shift, operators should check their lift truck in accordance with the vehicle handbook and document the findings.

Any defects identified which could affect the safe operation of the vehicle must be reported to a supervisor to ensure they are fixed. Importantly, trucks should not be used when faults affecting safety are discovered.

Resources to assist in vehicle checks — including guides, checklists, and pads of inspection forms — are available through the FLTA online shop.

A regular Thorough Examination — a compulsory test different from regular maintenance — should also be scheduled at intervals specified by the examiner. The frequency will depend on the truck type and the environment in which it is used.

Find out more at www.thoroughexamination.org.

Step 4: Keep informed

Forklift safety is an ongoing issue. The moment you stop being vigilant is the moment complacency strikes. Make sure you stay up to date with all the latest developments in forklift legislation, the latest advice and resources for making the workplace safer. Ensure staff — including the pedestrians — get regular refreshers to their training to help keep bad habits and corner cutting from creeping back in.

By becoming an FLTA member or by joining the Safe User Group, you’ll be able to access the latest resources, advice and guidance to help keep your site a safer place.

Join the FLTA

Membership of the Association puts you in a network of the most respected and trusted companies in the forklift industry. You’ll gain access to insider knowledge, publicity, and resources designed to help you work safer and smarter. You’ll be kept up to date with all the latest developments in the materials handling industry, and by displaying the FLTA badge customers will know that you’ve been held to the Association’s highest of standards.


34B Kingfisher Court, Hambridge Road, Newbury, Berkshire RG14 5SJ
Tel: 01635 277572
Email: mail@fork-truck.org.uk
Web: www.fork-truck.org.uk

The Fork Lift Truck Association (FLTA) provides the vitally important role of maintaining and raising standards in the materials handling industry. It helps to protect the interests of both consumers and dealers by enhancing safety standards, providing engineer training and increasing productivity in the workplace.